What Came Before Before Game of Thrones: The 3 Classic Episodes That Made TV Finales Matter

Howdy Doody

While millions of people will tune in to the finale of Game of Thrones on Sunday night, after eight award-winning seasons on HBO, millions more haven’t watched a single episode and will wake up Monday morning not feeling as if they’ve missed out on anything.

Television has changed in recent decades, and as critics like TIME’s Judy Berman have observed, the finale of Game of Thrones may represent the end of the era of the “water-cooler show.” If that’s the case, it will also be part of a long history of TV-series finales changing the medium.

But, while countless shows have gone off the air in the approximately century-long history of television, a few of them have had an outsize impact.

Howdy Doody (1960)
NBC/Getty ImagesPictured: (l-r) Lew Anderson as Clarabell the Clown, Howdy Doody, Bob Smith as Buffalo Bob Smith

This history starts with the last episode of Howdy Doody in 1960, which ran when viewers only had three channels to choose from. The episode — TIME called it “Howdy Doody’s last howdy” — came after the puppet’s 13 years on air, with “more performances than any show in the history of network television.” The hour-long farewell ended with the camera zooming in Clarabell the Clown, who had never talked on the show, saying “Goodbye, kids.” That acknowledgment of a conclusion was revolutionary.

“It’s the first final episode of any significance,” says David Bianculli, a guest host and TV critic on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross, who co-edited the 2018 anthology Television Finales: From Howdy Doody to Girls with Douglas L. Howard. “Back then, almost every show just stopped, and most shows didn’t go anywhere.”

But it took another few years for that conclusiveness to translate to the end of a full story. A lot of early TV entertainment at the time was not driven by plot arcs, and tended to essentially repeat the same schtick without a sense of narrative movement, Bianculli says.

The Fugitive (1967)
ABC Photo Archives/Getty Images“The Judgment, Part I” -Season Four – 8/22/67, Richard Kimble was finally exonerated of his wife’s murder in this two-part ending to the series.

The finale of The Fugitive in 1967 was “the first that was the end of a story,” he says. For four seasons, its main character had been on the run after being wrongly accused of his wife’s murder, so “producers said viewers are owed a

Source:: Time – Entertainment

      

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